I recently posted my last review of the books on the shortlist for the 2010 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. So, as usual, it’s time for my feature, If I Gave the Award, when I tell you if I think the jury got it right.
2010 was a strong year for historical fiction, and the shortlist reflects that. Of the seven books on that year’s list, I really enjoyed four of them, liked one other, and didn’t enjoy two others as much. Of the weakest entries, I felt that The Glass Room by Simon Mawer was cold and withdrawn, and I did not enjoy the subject matter of Hodd by Adam Thorpe, although it was effective at evoking the historical period. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds was interesting, but I still felt removed from the subject.
The strongest entries, in my opinion, were Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant, Lustrum by Robert Harris (published as Conspirata in the U.S.), Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears, and the winner, Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. Sacred Hearts, Lustrum, and Wolf Hall were best at evoking a sense of period and place, while Stone’s Fall had a great mystery.
If you follow my blog closely, however, you can probably guess which one I will pick. Wolf Hall was on my Best Books list for the year 2012. It is, in fact, one of my favorite books ever. So, I agree with the jury this time.